Daytona Beach Man Sentenced for Making Hoax Threats, Tax Fraud
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 30, 2010|
ORLANDO—U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that Chief U.S. District Judge Anne Conway today sentenced Nicholas Barbati (age 22, of Daytona Beach, Florida) to four years in federal prison for conveying hoax information, filing false claims with the Internal Revenue Service, and making a hoax distress call. As part of his sentence, the court also ordered the defendant to pay restitution in the amounts of $117,065.60 to the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and $96,220 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Barbati was charged in three separate cases. He pled guilty in each case.
On August 25, 2010, Barbati pled guilty to conveying hoax information that there was a threat to the Space Shuttle Endeavor. According to court documents, on November 14, 2008, the Space Shuttle Endeavor was on launch pad 39A preparing for a scheduled launch time of 7:55 p.m. Seven astronauts were already aboard the shuttle. Between 7:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., the Command Post at Patrick Air Force Base received a phone call from an unknown individual, subsequently identified as Barbati, claiming to be “Lieutenant Commander James Leary” of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Barbati claimed that he could see an inbound threat to the Space Shuttle Endeavor approximately two miles offshore.
As a result of Barbati’s call, the USCG chief ordered security sweeps of the area for a possible threat. None were located. Just five minutes prior to launch, it was determined that there was no viable threat to the shuttle. As a result, the shuttle launch commander cleared the shuttle for launch, and the launch took place as planned. Although the USCG had enough time prior to launch to verify that Barbati’s threat was a hoax, the effort that the USCG spent in responding to that threat left other secure areas vulnerable to possible breach.
A search warrant was conducted of Barbati’s residence, which resulted in the seizure of his computers. A search and forensic evaluation of Barbati’s computers revealed at least 584 other harassing and hoax calls that were made by Barbati. The forensic analysis revealed that between May and June 2009, Barbati made "swatting" calls to law enforcement dispatch centers around the world so that the dispatchers could not immediately identify from where the calls were coming. On some occasions, Barbati told emergency dispatchers that he was going to kill a baby if the police did not arrive soon. Barbati would then give a fictitious address, so police would respond and find nothing. On a separate occasion, Barbati indicated that he was going to recreate the Virginia Tech massacre. On many other occasions, Barbati would connect dispatch centers of numerous locations from around the world on a conference call. This would tie up the dispatch centers' emergency phone lines and operators to the point where some legitimate emergency calls were either placed on hold or rerouted.
One of those calls led to the second case in which Barbati was charged. On November 13, 2008, Barbati (who was unidentified at that time) called the USCG Headquarters in Washington, D.C., from his home in Daytona Beach, Florida, and reported that he was in a 32 foot yacht carrying "10 souls," i.e., 10 passengers, that was taking on water about three nautical miles off the coast of Fire Island, New York. The dispatcher at USCG Headquarters connected Barbati to the Coast Guard unit in Long Island, NY. Barbati repeated his false distress call to the dispatcher in Long Island before the call ended without him identifying himself. However, because he gave sufficient information regarding the fictitious yacht's location, the Coast Guard dispatched a rescue boat from their Fire Island station, and a helicopter from their Air Station in Atlantic City, NJ. There was no sighting of a boat in distress because Barbati’s call was false. Barbati’s hoax call caused the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help was needed.
The third case filed against Barbati related to false claims that Barbati filed with the Internal Revenue Service. On October 6, 2010, Barbati pled guilty to filing a false claim with the IRS. Barbati was filing tax returns for prostitutes employed by his Internet escort service that he was operating out of his residence. According to court documents, Barbati filed 20 false claims totaling $106,707.00. The filings included, among other things, false claims for deductions that the persons were not entitled to.
These cases were investigated by the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Daytona Beach Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David Haas.